Hurricane Irene: What To Expect In Southern New England

By Terry Eliasen, Meteorologist, WBZ-TV Exec. Weather Producer

BOSTON (CBS) – In less than 24 hours, Hurricane Irene has grown from a Category 1 to a Category 3 hurricane, what is considered to be a “major” hurricane.

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There is now a distinct eye at the center of Irene and further strengthening in the very warm waters of the Bahamas is likely.

Hurricane Irene: Check Latest Satellite Images | Tracking Map

Computer models have been fairly consistent, with no large swings in the forecasted track.

There is, however, a definite trend in the models over the last 24-to-48 hours. They continue to edge the track eastward with nearly every new run.

Most now have the eye of Irene staying over open water for its entire trip up the East Coast, making a close pass to the outer banks of North Carolina and then accelerating northward.

Since hurricanes gather most of their strength from the warm ocean water, if the eye of the storm does not make landfall before reaching our latitude it stands a very good chance of maintaining most of its power.

Hurricanes tend to undergo significant structural changes as they reach higher latitudes due to colder ocean water and stronger upper level winds which can tear these storms apart.

That is why Irene will likely begin to show signs of weakening as it nears us on Sunday night, but how much weakening and Irene’s exact track remain somewhat of a mystery.

With the eastward trend in the models, the current forecast now brings the center of Irene somewhere near Cape Cod late Sunday night, not to dissimilar from the track of Hurricane Bob back in 1991.


Here are some important things to keep in mind regarding the heaviest rain and strongest winds in a hurricane.

The most powerful winds are always on the east side (right side) of the storm.

So a track over or near Cape Cod would mean the strongest winds over the outer Cape and Islands.

The heaviest rainfall is almost always on the west side (left side) of the storm, so assuming the current forecasted track holds, the biggest issue from Irene for most of us in southern New England could be some very heavy rainfall.

Due to the tropical nature of the storm, 5-to-10 inches of rainfall wouldn’t be out of the question for those just to the west of the eye.


Another important consideration would be coastal flooding.

We have a new moon on Sunday, meaning tides will be astronomically high.

Watch Todd Gutner’s forecast:

The high tide to watch would be Sunday night (around 11:30 p.m.), again the track of the storm will play a big role in the eventual coastal flood threat, storm surge etc.

Keep in mind Irene is still more than four days away from making its closest pass at New England and a lot can happen between now and Sunday night.

We would urge you to start making preparations while staying tuned to the latest forecasts.

A lot can and will happen in the next 1,500 miles and 100 hours!


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